How does Charles Dickens use satire in Great Expectations?
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The principal character whom Charles Dickens uses in his novel Great Expectations as his vehicle for satire is Uncle Pumblechook. This character is a stereotype of the shallow class-obsessed and envious man who is also a hypocrite and one who exploits others; he is comical in his pompous fatuity. At the Christmas dinner on the forge, Pumblechook pompously makes the toast and berates Pip until he learns that Pip may have "great expectations"; then he takes credit for Pip's social advancement, bragging at the Boar's Nest later on that it was he who was responsible for Pip's good fortune.
Satirizing the elevation of a frivolous upper class in the character of Miss Havisham, who is an eccentric old woman that remains in the wedding dress of decades past and lives in a dark, rotting mansion, Dickens has Uncle Pumblechook speak of her as though she is a queen, but she is without the values that even the poor possess. When Pip is picked to visit Satis House and play with Estella, Pumblechook, who previously has paid no attention to Pip, now takes charge of his preparation to go to Miss Havisham's. However, his petty and ill-educated nature is apparent and satirized by Dickens in Chapter VIII as Pip is subjected to Pumblechook's poor company. He gives Pip little but crumbs to eat and quizzes him on his arithmetic. When they arrive at Miss Havisham's, Pumblechook is rebuffed by Estella and not allowed through the gate as she tells him Miss Havisham does not wish to see him.
In Chapter XXVIII, Pip learns at the Boar's Nest that Uncle Pumblechook has taken credit for Pip's good fortune, Clearly, Dickens satirizes in this passage:
[Pip reads the newspaper]...the youth's earliest patron, companion, and friend was a highly-respected individual not intirely unconnected with the corn and seed trade...It is not wholly irrespective of our personal feelings tht we record HIM as the Mentor of our young Telemachus, for it is good to know that our town produced the founder of the latter's fortunes....
[Pip remarks] I entertained a conviction, based upon large experience, that if in the days of my prosperity I had gone to the North Pole, I should have met somebody there...who would have told me Pumblechook was my earliest patron and the founder of my fortunes.
In addition to satirizing the stereotypical Pumblechook and the upperclass with Miss Havisham, Dickens pokes fun of a gruff and impolite Mr. Jaggers, a character who is a parody of a lawyer whom the author knew in real life, a notoriously unscrupulous lawyer. Satirizing Jaggers abruptness, like an emotionally detached jailer who abruptly disposes of people, Jaggers says, "there's an end of it" and waves clients away. In one passage, Pip narrates that Jaggers even "seemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it."
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